Rio Tinto enters scandium market with plant in Quebec www.mining.com
Rio Tinto said on Thursday it will become North America’s first producer of critical mineral scandium with the construction of a commercial-scale demonstration plant at its metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec.
Rio said it would invest $6 million to build the first module at Rio Tinto Fer et Titane (RFTF) with commercial production starting in the second quarter of this year.
The plant will have an initial capacity to produce three tonnes of scandium oxide per year, or approximately 20% of the current global market.
Rio said it has developed a process to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining at its ilmenite mine in Havre-Saint-Pierre in the Canadian province.
Scandium oxide is used to improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells, which are used as a power source for data centres and hospitals, as well as in niche products such as lasers and lighting for stadiums or studios.
It is also used to produce high-performance aluminium-scandium master alloys for the aerospace, defence and 3D printing industries.
The Government of Quebec is contributing approximately C$650,000 to the project through the Quebec Plan for the Development of Critical and Strategic Minerals.
Rio Tinto Iron and Titanium managing director Stéphane Leblanc said Rio Tinto has been engaged in the exploration and production of rare earths and critical minerals globally for a number of years to meet the demand in new and emerging technologies.
“With the support of Rio Tinto’s aluminium business, we are uniquely positioned to deliver aluminium-scandium master alloys and develop synergies with North America’s manufacturing supply chain.”